We start with a some the most necessary information you need to have before buying a VW Cabrio Type 1. After reading this you can go on and read the complete Buyers Guide. Off course you could read this after your purchase, it may be useful even then. Especially the after purchase section.
I have deliberately avoided a lot of links to my deeper information as it may lead you off track. So please read all below before going further.
1. A genuine cabrio?
Confirm that it is a genuine VW Karmann Cabrio Type 1 (Beetle Cabrio) before even going to look at it. Because it is a genuine Cabrio you are looking for?
If possible check with the car registration authorities that the person who claims to own the car owns it and that taxes are paid etc. I do not know if this is possible in all countries, but it is in Sweden. If you can get the chassisnumber and it starts with 15 (from 1965 and newer) it conforms that the car is a genuine Cabrio.
3. Original or custom?
Decide which is your preference.
4. Rust, rust, rust.
Cabrios tend to rust at least as much as the Sedans. But they are much more difficult to repair. The weaker body could lead to a deformed body if the welding job is done in an improper way. Check the cars lines closely. Check that the special cabriosills are in place under the normal sills.
5. The top
Check closely. A new top should get your attention as much as a new paintjob, it could hide a lot of trouble. Expensive and complicated to fix. The vinyl top (from 1966) shrinks, that is normal, so if it shows no signs of this it is new or fairly new. The wires on the sides are often snapped, and not to complicated to replace, but they help to hold the sides of the top down, so the should be intact. Check on the inside for signs of damp.
6. Engine, brakes etc.
Same as on the Sedan, so that is the "least" worry. But do not neglect it, to rebuild an engine is costly. Be extra careful with a tuned engine.
7. Restored or an object?
To restore a car is expensive, to buy a nicely restored car is cheaper. The price difference is usually to small between unrestored - fair and running - restored.
8. Complete and correct?
Is the car complete and is everything correct for that year? How important this is depends on how important original is for
Do not buy unless you can put your car in a safe place. The street or outside at your house is not very safe and a Cabrio should not be standing in the rain or in strong sunlight day after day.you.
10. Pay a resonable price
You could easily get to eager, especially on a sunny spring day. Do not buy just because you must have a cabrio for summer. But do not hesitate if you find the "perfect car". Do not lose it just because you tried to negotiated the price to hard. Really good cars are seldom for sale, it may take a long time before you find another really nice one. The best time to buy is in the autumn.
11. At the test drive
If possible drive with the top open and closed. At closed you can check thightness, draft and noise from wheels, transmission etc. At open you can check if the car flexes to much. Put a finger between the door and the "B-pillar"; if you get a pinch at bumps and potholes the body may be a bit to weak. This may hurt! do not squeeze your finger in if the gap is narrow. Some movement is normal. This is best done if someone else is driving.
More useful information:
Common, not cabrio specific, information about what to think of before buying a VW could be found at The Bugshop and flat4 - the air cooled beetle site.
(Could also be read before)
When you finally have found the Cabrio you always dreamt of do not rush away and start to take it apart, buying and replacing things at random. Washing, polishing and normal service (oil, plugs etc) is OK! Examine the car more carefully and make a plan of what is to be done.
1. Rubber mouldings
Large and small, a complete change of them all is fairly expensive, but necessary for looks and comfort. Silicone treat them regularly and they last a lot longer.
2. The top
If it is in fair condition, if necessary at least renew the side wires. Make sure that there no leaks at the rear window. Make a test drive when it rains so you know that there are no leaks at the front bow (does not apply from model 1303, 1973-). Do not use any vinyl treatments on the top! They will just mess it up, make it to glossy or even ruin it. Just wash it by hand.
3. To handle the top
Learn to handle it correctly, if done wrong you may harm it. If you have the owners manual you can read how, if not, I have an instruction. In open position: use the cover.
4. Join a club!
Join a VW enthusiasts club! Either local or one that covers your country. In some countries there are special clubs just for the cabrio. As far as I know there are Cabrioclubs in Germany, Great Britain, France, Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. In a club you may find lot of help and support, plus the pleasure to take part in the clubs activities! Search the web for VW clubs, and you will find a lot of them.
5. To buy parts.
Not everything can be bought from VW anymore. But there are a lot of firms that are specialized in VW and they have more or less everything, either original (NOS) or newly made. The quality of the new made parts may vary, so be careful. Do not make a big order from abroad to find out that they sell junk. Better is to first make a small order, to check the firm out. Or even better: buy locally.
6. If you need a new top
First read the New Top Guide. Do not try it yourself unless you are really sure on what you are doing. A failure could be very expensive. If you use a saddler, let him buy the material unless he says otherwise. If he gets the material from his normal sources he will be familiar with it. And if anything goes wrong he can not be able to say that the material you brought was inferior.
7. Get a service manual
There are not many garages left that know how to repair a Beetle, including VWs own. Try to do as much as possible yourself. If you jion a local VW-club you can probably get help there.
8. Be careful
If this is your first VW (watercooled does not count!) take in mind that an old VW-engine can not be run in the same manner as a modern engine. Do not rev it to high and not to low. Change oil every 5000 km (3500 miles) or more often, minimum once a year. If you do not drive in the winter, make the oilchange in the autumn. Clean the oilscreen everytime. Oil quality: To start using a full synthetic oil in an old engine that have been run on standardoil can make more damage then good. Better to continue using a standard oil, but change more frequently.